Atlanta Thrashers (3-3-0-6, 3rd SE) v. Washington Captials (4-3-0-8, 2nd SE)
7:00 pm, Verizon Center, Washington DC

After home and home losses to the Boston Bruins this week, the Washington Capitals look to get back on the right track against a young and improving Atlanta Thrashers squad. 

Washington has won seven straight games against Atlanta at Verizon Center, dating to Feb. 2, 2008. The Capitals have averaged 4.43 goals per game in that stretch.

Matthieu Perrault at Caps practice this morning.
The Caps, struggling on offense this week, limited to two goals in two games with the Bruins, and struggling with nagging injuries, recalled forwards Matthieu Perrault and Jay Beagle from AHL Hershey today.  The two players are expected to dress for tonight's matchup.

How that shakes up the lines is anybody's guess at this point.  At this morning's pre-game skate, all Caps forwards wore white practice jerseys and did not do line rushes, concentrating more on two-man drills.

Center Marcus Johansson did not practice and is not expected to play, joining walking wounded Matt Bradley and Boyd Gordon, who has been MIA all week, with no description of why the veteran forward is sitting, except for Coach Bruce Boudreau saying "He's healthy but we've decided to give him a few days here."

Johansson has what Boudreau described as a hip flexor injury, sustained against Boston Thursday night.  Boudreau expects him back next week.

In Thursday's loss, Boudreau had Johansson on the second line with Alexander Semin and Brooks Laich, while Tomas Fleischmann centered Eric Fehr and Jason Chimera.  Flash's chemistry with Fehr makes them a good tandem, and Perrault might find himself slipping into Johansson's place on the second line.

D.J. King skated with the coaches following practice, so it's a good bet he'll be a healthy scratch tonight, with Beagle stepping into his slot on the fourth line with David Steckel and Matt Hendricks.

Of course, that's all speculation.

Mike Green winces after taking a shot in practice.
Defenseman Mike Green took full practice with the team this morning, but was still in obvious discomfort shooting the puck.  Boudreau said Green will take the pre-game skate tonight and will be a game-time decision.

Semyon Varlamov was the first goalie off the ice at practice, so it's likely he'll start in goal for the Caps tonight.

Atlanta enters play tonight losers of two in a row themselves, dropping a 4-1 loss to Buffalo Wednesday and a 5-2 decision to division rival Tmapa Bay last night.  Both games were at home for the Thrashers.

Goalie Ondrej Pavelec, who fainted and sustained a concussion in their home opener against the Caps (a 4-2 Atlanta win) has not played since the event, but passed his concussion test and could return soon for the Thrash.  Chris Mason has handled the bulk of the work between the pipes, going 3-4-0 with a 3.47 GAA and .908 save percentage.

Atlanta is led by center Anthony Stewart with four goals, and LW Andrew Ladd has two goals and five assists in a strong start. 


ATL:  LW Andrew Ladd (2-5-7, +2), D Dustin Byfuglien (2-4-6, -4), Chris Mason (3-4, 3.47, .908)
WAS:  LW Alex Ovechkin (4-4-8, -1), D John Carlson (1-5-6, +1), G Semyon Varlamov (0-1-0, 2.91, .896)


ATL:  C Nik Antropov (hip-out), D Zack Bogosian (shoulder-out), F Patrice Cormier (foot-out), G Ondrej Pavelev (concussion-QUE)
WAS:  D Mike Green (shoulder-QUE), RW Matt Bradley (LBI-out), C Boyd Gordon (undisclosed-OUT), C Marcus Johansson (hip-out)


ATL:  GF/G: 2.71 (T-14th), GA/G: 3.57 (30th), PP: 21.2% (8th), PK: 73.5% (28th)
WAS:  GF/G: 2.71 (T-14th), GA/G: 2.57 (T-12th), PP: 13.3% (18th), PK: 89.7% (9th)

Jay Beagle returns to the Caps' roster.

Matt Bradley practiced but will miss his fourth straight game tonight.

Perrault, Beagle Recalled from Hershey

Posted by Dave Nichols | Friday, October 22, 2010 | , , , , | 0 comments »

According to the notes section in this Hershey Bears press release, the Washington Capitals have recalled centers Matthieu Perrault and Jay Beagle from AHL Hershey.  Both players were scratched tonight from the Bears' game with Wilkes-Barre, a 3-2 loss.

There has been no word from the Capitals yet with any corresponding moves, but it's no secret the Caps have struggled down the middle so far this season, with rookie Marcus Johansson registering just one point in six games, while he and veteran Tomas Fleischmann both own faceoff percentages lower than 35 percent.

The Capitals have their pre-game skate at Kettler Capitals Iceplex at 10:00 am Saturday morning in preparation for a 7:00 pm game with the Atlanta Thrashers.

We'll update this story as we gather more information.

Centers of Attention

Posted by Dave Nichols | Friday, October 22, 2010 | , , , , , , | 0 comments »

The Washington Capitals are struggling offensively right now.  They sit exactly middle-of-the-pack (15th) in the NHL in goals per game at 2.71, and if you factor out a seven-goal outburst in the home opener, well, the struggles are even more amplified.

One of the Caps biggest off-season concerns has now turned into a regular season nightmare:  center play.  Nicklas Backstrom is off to a fairly terrible start.  With one goal (credited when an Alex Ovechkin slapshot hit him and went into the net) and three assists, his production is well short of what is expected out of the Super Swede, coming off his career year last season of 101 points.

It's easy to look at Backstrom's slump and say "It's only seven games."  But it's worrisome that his minus-2 rating and woefully inadequate 6.3 shooting percentage isn't better just by accident.  Nicky is still winning his share of draws (57.1 percent), and Coach Bruce Boudreau can do nothing but hope that Backstrom will break out of his doldrums in a big way and in a big hurry.

Still, it's curious that he signed a huge contract this past off-season and then gets off to the worst start of his NHL career.

As for the others?

Currently, the center on the second line between The Enigma (Alexnader Semin) and Iron Man (Brooks Laich) is just-turned 20-year old Marcus Johansson.  The younger Swede has had moments of brilliance and is a slick puck handler and terrific skater.  But he is not strong enough physically right now to really compete on a daily basis with veterans in the NHL.  He is literally a boy among men.

He is also -- despite his obvious skills -- not producing.  One goal, no assists, and just 34.0 percent in the dot isn't getting it done.  He's only put six shots on net.  He's getting beaten physically and positionally on defense.  Is giving on-the-job training to a 20-year old -- on the second line -- a luxury the Capitals can afford right now?

Next, we come to everyone's favorite whipping boy, Tomas Fleischmann.  I'm going to say this one more time: He is out of position at center.  He's got two goals and two assists and is tied for the team lead at plus-4.  But his faceoff percentage is as bad as Johansson's at 36.1.  Boudreau doesn't trust him, evidenced by his TOI/G at just 15:15 and the fact that Boudreau isn't giving Flash any defensive zone draws.

Fleischmann also is a bad defender.  He is pushed off the puck much too easily for a guy that's been around a while now.  He is constantly losing physical battles and seems indifferent to back-checking.

Further down the roster is David Steckel and Boyd Gordon.  Both have the reputation for being good faceoff men and stout penalty killers.  But Steckel hasn't really made much difference on the ice this season after not getting a sweater for opening night, and Gordon hasn't even been on the ice the last three games with an undisclosed injury, after at one point Boudreau calling him a "healthy" scratch.

In the last couple of game recaps I've alluded to the possibility of a roster shake-up if the Caps offensive woes continue.  It's not a stretch to think that the center position is the first place a roster tweak could happen, should GM George McPhee and Boudreau think that's necessary.

GAME 7 RECAP: Second Period Disaster Dooms Caps

Posted by Dave Nichols | Friday, October 22, 2010 | , , | 0 comments »

"We had lots of chances to score.  We just didn't."  Coach Bruce Boudreau in his post-game remarks.

THE RESULT:  The Washington Capitals offense has been struggling all season long, and those problems continued Thursday night, as Tim Thomas and the Boston Bruins dominated the Caps for the second time in three nights, winning 4-1 before a capacity crowd of 17,565 at TD Banknorth Garden for their home opener.

Boston has been on the road the better part of a month, playing exhibition games in Belfast before opening the regular season in Prague, then road games back in the states in New Jersey and Washington D.C..  But it was the team wearing Red that looked like they were the tired ones.

As has been the case all season, the Caps got down early, only this time Boston kept the pedal down and buried the Caps, manhandling them physically all evening.  Only a mistake playing the puck by Thomas early in the third period kept this from being an embarrassing shut out for the Boston netminder.

Thomas was excellent once again.  He's only allowed three goals in four games this year with a 0.75 GAA and .978 save percentage.  He made several excellent saves early, but all too often the Washington shooters either hit Thomas in the pads, or couldn't get any lift on the puck as Thomas made a succession of kick saves late in the first, robbing Brooks Laich and Mike Knuble in close with toe saves.

The Capitals penalty kill, which had not given up a goal all season, was not up to its new-found status, as they allowed three power play goals in four attempts, including a bomb from Zdeno Chara with 16 seconds remaining in the game.

The Caps showed life in both the first and third periods, buzzing the net and getting scoring opportunities.  Maybe they weren't getting the best opportunities, but the first period might have been the most effective they've had since the third period against the Devils.  But the Bruins scratched out a PP goal at 19:32, and all the good effort went for naught.

Coach Bruce Boudreau thought the late first period goal was the key to the whole game.  "I thought we outplayed them in the first period pretty good, coming in 0-0 in their home opener would have been so much better than the way it was."

But the wheels came completely off in the second period.

Jordan Caron put a snap shot past Semyon Varlamov at 2:22, taking advantage of poor communication and even worse positioning on defense, and the floodgates opened from there.

They just couldn't get out of their own end.  After another dismal power play, Alex Ovechkin was caught on the ice at the point for what seemed like an eternity.  Twice, in order just to get a breath, the Caps iced the puck, but that meant Ovechkin had to stay on the ice. 

Eventually, Alex Semin was whistled for hooking, stopping play and allowing Ovi off the ice.  Naturally, Boston made good on the advantage, with Nathan Horton scoring his fourth goal of the season 15 second before the infraction was to expire.

"We got caught out there too long with Nicky's line," Boudreau said.  "They got one change in while the puck was in our zone -- which was a great change by them -- and we were too tired to move and they made it 2-0 then they scored on the power play to make it 3-0.  It's pretty tough to come back against this team when the goalie is playing like that with a 3-0 lead."

We've been through this now the last couple of games.  This team is in a deep, deep funk offensively, and were it not for the seven-goal outburst against New Jersey the stats would look even worse.  Boudreau is trying to put a finger on it, and if it's getting a lucky result somewhere that flips the switch, it sounds like he'd take that at this point. 

"There are guys not producing that should be producing and we want them to produce.  Is it because they're not playing well, or is it because they're snakebit?  I think they can all play better.  It's a combination of both, I think."

Regardless the reason, if things don't change soon, Boudreau will be forced to make some changes.  And thistime, it might not just be shuffling lines.

THE GOOD:  There wasn't much.  Marcus Johansson played well centering the second line, and the Caps got a lot of shots on goal.  I'm reaching though.

THE BAD:  Power play went 0-for-4, shut out the entire eight minutes. 

This team really misses Mike Green, especially on the point of the power play.

THE UGLY:  For the second straight game, the Caps were physically dominated by the Bruins.  Granted, they are one of the stronger, more physical teams in the league.  But the game really looked like a replay of Game 5, 6, or 7 from last year's first round playoff exit.  Lots of shot from the perimeter, Ovi flipping wristers from the top of the circle, ususally into the shin pads of his defender, and the Caps getting beaten for pucks along the boards.

This team really misses Matt Bradley and Boyd Gordon doing some of that missing dirty work.

THE STATS:  Jason Chimera (2), unassisted at 9:27 of 3rd.  Semyon Varlamov 30-of-34.

NEXT GAME:  Saturday at 7:00 pm v. Atlanta Thrashers at Verizon Center.


3.  Mike Knuble.  The oldest guy on the team was the only one showing anything along the boards.  Had five SOG and broke up a 2-on-1.
2.  John Erskine.  Rugged defender blocked three shots, has two hits, and knocked down two passes that could have ended up in the goal and was +1 for the evening.
1.  Marcus Johansson.  The young centerman was the Caps most effective player, and was acknowledged as such by Boudreau after the game.  "Marcus was probably our best forward."

CAPS GAME NIGHT, GAME 7: On the Road in Boston

Posted by Dave Nichols | Thursday, October 21, 2010 | , , | 0 comments »

Washington Capitals (4-2-0-8, 2nd SE) v. Boston Bruins (3-1-0-6 3rd NE)
7:00 pm, TD Banknorth Garden, Boston, MA

The Washington Capitals travel to Boston to complete their early season home-and-home against the Bruins in their home opener.  Over the past three weeks, Boston has traveled from Northern Ireland to the Czech Republic to Newark, NJ to the nation's capital, all for the sake of four regular season and two pre-season hockey games.

Tonight, they finally get to play before their home crowd.

"It's going to be good to be home," coach Claude Julien said. "We've had our fair share of road games."

It's remarkable that the Bruins have gotten off to such a strong start, including stopping the Caps four-game win streak Tuesday night at Verizon Center.  A stifling defense and strong goalie play by Tim Thomas and Tuukka Rask have led the way for the B's.  Reports from morning practice have Rask starting in net tonight.

Boston is spreading the offense around, with Nathan Horton, Milan Lucic and David Krejci each having at least one point in each game this season for Boston. Horton and Krejci are tied for the early club lead with six points apiece.  Krejci, Lucic and D Matt Hunwick scored for Boston Tuesday night, and the B's first line gave the Caps fits in the first period, when Boston built a 2-0 lead.

Washington brings a lethal, but slumping, offense and a new-found stinginess on the penalty kill into tonight's game.  They haven't allowed a goal in 25 short-handed opportunities this season, and will try to join the 2008-09 Minnesota Wild as the only teams not to give up a power-play goal in their first seven games since the league expanded in 1967.

As successful as the PK has been, that's how much the offense, and in particular the power play, has struggled.

The Caps PP is ranked 16th in the league thus far, a far cry from successes of past season, with just four PP goals in 26 attempts (15.4 percent).  The Caps average exactly three goals per game this season, which places them eighth in the league, but with all the weapons on this team, the results are expected to be higher.

Part of the problem is the Caps continue to miss one of their top playmakers, defenseman Mike Green, who will miss his third straight game with an upper body injury, believed to be a strained shoulder.  Also out are grinders Matt Bradley and Boyd Gordon, whose presence would come in handy against a physical team like Boston.

Semyon Varlamov got his first game action Tuesday night after Michal Neuvirth pulled himself from the game with dizziness and a headache.  The young Czech goalie, who has played brilliantly thus far, trying to gut his way through the game, but after two first period goals he didn't want to let the team down because he was not feeling well. 

Neuvirth practiced the last two days, and will back up Varlamov tonight.  Varly played well in his season debut, making 13 saves on 14 shots.  The lone goal came on a floater from the blue line that disappeared in a maze of bodies in front of the net.


BOS:  Nathan Horton (3-3-6, +3), David Krejci (1-5-6, +3), Tim Thomas (3-0-0, 0.67, .979)
WAS:  Alex Ovechkin (4-4-8, even), John Carlson (1-5-6, even), Michal Neuvirth (4-2-0, 2.45, .921)


BOS:  C Marc Savard (concussion-OUT), F Marco Sturm (knee-OUT), F Trent Whitfield (achilles-OUT)
WAS:  D Mike Green (shoulder-OUT), F Matt Bradley (LBI-OUT), F Boyd Gordon (undisclosed-OUT)


BOS:  3.00 GF/G (T-8th), 1.75 GA/G (2nd), PP 1-for-15, 6.7% (T-27th), PK 1-for-11, 90.9% (5th)
WAS:  3.00 GF/G (T-8th), 2.33 GA/G (10th), PP 4-for-26, 15.4% (16th), PK 0-for-25, 100.0% (T-1st)

GAME 6 RECAP: Caps Can't Click Against Bruins, Fall 3-1

Posted by Dave Nichols | Wednesday, October 20, 2010 | , , | 0 comments »

THE RESULT:  Well, it finally caught up to them.

The Washington Capitals played hard most of the night, but still not particularly well.  They had very little cohesion in their offensive attack:  missing passes, having trouble digging pucks off the boards and out of the corners, and generally losing physical battles all night to the bigger, stronger Boston Bruins.

Unlike the four previous games where brilliant bursts of individual talent carried the Caps to wins, the Caps came up empty tonight, falling to the Bruins 3-1 before 18,398 stunned Caps fans at Verizon Center.

"We're not terrible," Coach Bruce Boudreau said. "We had a tough game. I thought we outplayed them pretty good for the most part. They were opportunistic, and we get a chance to play them again Thursday."

As has been the theme all season long, the Capitals' vaunted power play unit went scoreless in four attempts, looking disorganized and listless.

Boston goalie Tim Thomas made 35 saves on 36 shots to lead the Bruins to their third win in four games.  Thomas has allowed just three goals in three games, all wins.

The Caps (4-2-0) came out firing in the first ten minutes, playing some of their most complete hockey of the season.  They just couldn't find the mark against Thomas.  Then, at 9:12, Boston scored their first goal and the tenor of the game changed.  When the Bruins got their second two minutes later, everyone in the building could feel it.

“We had good chances to score goals but we didn’t,” laments Ovechkin. “They used two chances in the first period [to take a lead]. We made mistakes in our zone, I made a mistake and we had a mistake when they scored the first goal.”

Ovechkin was a minus-2 for the night, scoreless for the first time this season.  Boston's first line was responsible for their first two goals, converting a 2-on-1 and banging in a big rebound in the slot as goalie Michal Neuvirth got out of position making a save.

Neuvirth left the game abruptly after the second goal, complaining of dizziness and a headache.  Boudreau indicated after the game the first he'd heard of Neuvirth feeling poorly was when the rookie netminder pulled himself from the game.

“After the second goal,” explains Boudreau, “he complained of dizziness and a headache. So the next whistle he came off.

“That’s the first I knew about it. If he wasn’t feeling good, we wouldn’t have started him. But we had no indication. He was feeling fine after the pre-game warm-up.”

Semyon Varlamov came on for his first action in 2010 and played well, stopping 13 of 14 shots faced, the lone goal coming through multiple screens on a shot from the blue line.  "He did a great job,” says Boudreau of Varlamov. “The goal that went in, he couldn’t see.”

Marcus Johansson converted a great pass from Chimera to cut the lead in the second period to 2-1, scoring his first NHL goal in the process.  But that would end up the lone tally for the Capitals in this match.

This team is going to score.  There's just too much talent here not too.  Right now, this team looks like it takes the ice expecting to win, and with all the pre-season talk about the Stanley Cup and avenging last season's first round playoff loss, maybe the doldrums of playing regular season games just doens't have the same panache.

But they were outmuscled tonight.  They lost physical battles.  They weren't manhandled, but it wasn't far from it.  "We had a tough time along the boards, but that happens against a good team like the Bruins," Jason Chimera said from a quiet locker room after the game.

Don't ya just once want to hear someone say that about the Caps?  During the second intermission, I reminisced with a fellow blogger about the "old days" of Kelly Miller and Mike Ridley, when the Caps were less skilled than the squad assembled now, but were very rarely outworked or pushed around.

The Caps are built for speed, not mucking things up.  You can't re-tool the entire roster -- nor should you -- when the formula was pretty good last season.  But Boudreau and GM George McPhee are faced with a dilemma:  How do you wake up a complacent, veteran -- though young -- team?  Where do you find a little more toughness along the boards?

Is it too soon to shake things up a bit?  Is it prudent?  I don't know the answers, but I suspect McPhee and Boudreau might be working on it already.

THE GOOD:  The penalty kill.  0-for-4, including :53 of 5-on-3 time.  Guys are buying in, putting their bodies in passing lanes, blocking shots, picking up for their teammates.  It's not going to last forever, but six games without a power play goal against is pretty darn impressive from a team that "can't play defense".

THE BAD:  The first two goals were both because defensemen were caught out of position.  The first goal Karl Alzner was pinching up and did not get back in time to help Tyler Sloan, who then played the resulting 2-on-1 poorly anyway.  The second came on a big rebound off a dizzy Neuvirth where Jeff Schultz didn't play the body of the forward and paid for it.

THE UGLY:  The power play.  It's beyond problematic at this point.  0-for-4, with :24 of 5-on-3 for naught.  No cohesion, no urgency, no passion.  For all the success the penalty kill is having, that how badly the PP is failing.  Granted, the squad is missing Mike Green while he's out, but the Caps can't use that as an excuse. 

THE STATS:  Johansson (1) from Chimera (1) and Hendricks (2) at 7:42 of 2nd.

NEXT GAME:  Thursday in Boston at 7:00 pm.


3.  Semyon Varlamov.  13 saves and one goal against in emergency relief effort.
2.  Alex Semin.  10 shots, three hits, two takeaways.  Most effective forward on the ice tonight.
1.  Marcus Johansson.  Score your first NHL goal, win the first star of the game.

CAPS GAME NIGHT, GAME 6: Something Bruin in D.C.

Posted by Dave Nichols | Tuesday, October 19, 2010 | , , | 0 comments »

Boston Bruins (2-1-0-4, 3rd NE) v. Washington Capitals (4-1-0-8, 1st SE)
7:30 pm, Verizon Center, Washington, D.C.

It hasn't been pretty much of the time, but the Washington Capitals ride a four-game winning streak into tonight's game against the Boston Bruins, winners of two of their first three games of the young season.

Boston opened their season with a pair of games in Prague against the Phoenix Coyotes, splitting those games and beating a deflated and undermanned New Jersey team 4-1 Saturday night. 

The Bruins have two very capable goaltenders in Tim Thomas and Tuuka Rask, and Thomas is expected to start in net tonight.  He's won two straight games, shutting out Phoenix 3-0 and getting the win against the Devils.

Boston’s biggest off-season move was the acquisition of RW Nathan Horton in a deal with the Florida Panthers. Horton paces the Bruins’ scoring with three goals and five points in three games. Horton also scored Boston’s lone power play tally in the campaign.

The Caps are banged up pretty good right now.  There's a deep list of players nursing nagging injuries, but from this morning's skate, it sounds like Coach Bruce Boudreau will get at least Tom Poti (LBI) back on his blue line, but Matt Bradley (LBI) will miss another game up front.  Boudreau called Mike Green (shoulder) and Boyd Gordon (undisclosed) game-time decisions, while Marcus Johansson (foot) and D.J. King stayed out on the ice with Semyon Varlamov after practice.

D John Carlson left Monday's practice early with soreness resulting from a blocked shot against Nashville Saturday night, prompting Brooks Laich to practice with the defensemen, preparing for an emergency assignment.

Boudreau confirmed that Michal Neuvirth will start, and with good reason.  The rookie netminder has been terrific thus far, putting up a 2.16 GAA and .930 save pct. in the first five contests.  Neuvirth is the first Caps goalie to start and go the distance in each of the team’s first five games since Olie Kolzig did so in 1999-00.

Tonight will mark the first game Varlamov will dress, and the Caps' coach wants to get him into a game in the near future.   “I’m hoping he is going to play soon,” Boudreau said of Varlamov. “But Neuvy is playing pretty well.”

Something to look for:  Washington has killed off all 21 shorthanded situations it has faced through five games, one of two teams -- with the Florida Panthers -- perfect on the penalty kill this year. It is the longest stretch the Capitals have gone without allowing a power-play goal (in terms of games) since a six-game stretch from Feb. 8-20.

Despite the half-hour later start, doors at Verizon Center will open at their normal time of 6:00 pm.


BOS:  Nathan Horton (3-2-5, +1), David Krejci (0-4-4, +1), Tim Thomas (2-0-0, 0.50, .984)
WAS:  Alex Ovechkin (4-4-8, +2), John Carlson (1-5-6, even), Michael Neuvirth (4-1-0, 2.16, .930)


BOS:  D Andrew Ference (Thumb-PROB)
WAS:  RW Matt Bradley (LBI-OUT), D Mike Green (sholder-QUE), Boyd Gordon (undisclosed-QUE), Marcus Johansson (foot-PROB), Tom Poti (LBI-PROB), John Carlson (LBI-PROB)

Caps Party at Six Flags

Posted by Cheryl Nichols | Tuesday, October 19, 2010 | , | 0 comments »

Check out our pictures from the Caps Season Ticket Holder Party at Six Flags over at Off the Ice.

THE RESULT:  Well, that was fun, eh?

For the first 40 minutes of Saturday night's game, the Washington Capitals flat-out stunk.  They took a ton of penalties, couldn't get out of their own end, were careless with the puck and generally outplayed by a hungrier team.

Fortunately for the Caps, Michal Neuvirth was again at the very top of his game and the penalty kill unit continued its dominance, keeping the Caps within striking distance, as they trailed 2-0 entering the third period. 

Believe me, it could have been much worse.

Washington (4-1-0-8) rallied though with a fierce comeback in the third period, and Brooks Laich redirected an Alex Ovechkin blast in overtime to steal two points from the Nashville Predators in a 3-2 win, before 16,144 at Bridgestone Arena in Nashville.

Nashville (3-0-1-7) outshot Washington 30-20 after the first two periods, and the level of play wasn't even that close.

The Caps allowed a breakaway in the opening seconds of the game, then took a penalty at 24 seconds.  It was that kind of a night for the better part of two periods.  J.P. Dumont was allowed to walk in after a bad turnover and beat Neuvirth over his right shoulder for the first Predators goal near the end of the first.

And when a centering pass from Jordin Tootoo deflected off defenseman Brian Fahey's skate (activated because on Mike Green's lingering shoulder injury) and slipped behind Neuvirth mid-way through the second period, it looked for the world like this wouldn't be the Capitals night.

It would have been a waste of a simply masterful performance by their unflappable young netminder, Michal Neuvirth.  Neuvy was in position all night, and made several flashy glove saves to boot.  For the night, he stopped 37 of 39 shots, and calmly led this team while it found its way.

He is solidly cementing himself in the No. 1 goalie slot for the time being.

In the third period, the Capitals finally got it in gear, led by their offensive enigma, Alexander Semin.  He caught fire, controlling play in the Nashville end, as the Predator defenders all of the sudden looked tired.  Semin scored a power play goal at 4:33 -- his 150th of his career -- giving the Caps some much-needed energy.

"You could feel the tide turning," Washington coach Bruce Boudreau said. "You look up and you see that you're only down a goal or two goals, you've still got a chance. Every time we play these guys is like this. They're so fast. The fastest team, easily that we've seen."

The Semin goal gave the Caps the momentum, and Tomas Fleischmann banged home a bouncing puck to tie the game from the low slot after Brooks Laich did some nice dirty work behind the Nashville goal to pop the puck out into the slot.

In overtime, Ryan Suter took a tripping penalty trying to slow Alex Ovechkin down in the offensive zone, giving the Caps a 4-on-3 power play.  Smelling blood in the water, Boudreau sent out four forwards for the PP:  Ovechkin, Semin, Laich and Nicklas Backstrom. 

Backstrom took control of a loose puck along the dasher and hit Ovechkin in full stride at the blue line. Ovechkin's blast stayed low to the ice, where a crashing Brooks Laich got just enough of it to redirect it past rookie goalie Anders Lindback (31 saves) for the game winner.

So, much like Wednesday's win against the Islanders, this was another game where the Caps played poorly and unfocused for much of the affair but found enough in reserve to carry the day.  There's a lot of talk right about "not how, but how many," and that they don't give out style points for wins, but the Caps are darn lucky they won tonight.

You wonder if it's going to take losing one of these games to get the Captials to buy into playing for a full 60 minutes. 

THE GOOD:  The Caps killed off another six penalties, making them a perfect 21-for-21 on the PK this season.  They even went down 5-on-3 at one point and kept their record clean.  This kind of thing is infectious.

Also, we're five games in now, and Jeff Schultz has yet to be on the ice when an opposing goal was scored.

THE BAD:  Brian Fahey looked out of place, let his skate get into the wrong place defending in the slot, and was -2.  Get well soon, GreenLife52.

THE UGLY:  Fleischmann was 1-for-12 in the dot.  Hard to control the puck if you don't have it.

THE STATS:  Semin (2) from Carlson (5) and Backstrom (2) at 4:33 of 2nd.  Fleischmann (2) from Laich (2) at 12:14 of 2nd.  Laich (3) from Ovechkin and Backstrom (3) at 1:44 of OT (PP).

NEXT GAME:  Tuesday against Boston at 7:30 pm at Verizon Center.


3.  Alexander Semin.  Semin's strong play was the spark that got the Caps going in the third, and was rewarded with Caps first goal on the power play.
2.  Brooks Laich. Got the deflection on Ovechkin's bomb from the blue line for the game winner and did the hard work on Flash's garbage goal.
1.  Michal Neuvirth.  Kid was a stud, simple as that.  Could have been 5-0 at one point were it not for him.